2012 Mini Cooper S Coupe JCW Edition new car reviews

The looks are controversial and it does eat up the regular Cooper's utility, but it does make for some very irrational thoughts.

Better than: The non-JCW Coupe
But not as good as: The more useful standard Cooper S JCW
GRM Bang For The Buck Index: 88.76

Several months back we reviewed the Mini Coupe and found it to be a capable playmate, but lacking in the typical utility that we’ve come to expect from Minis over the years.

Well, the John Cooper Works version ups the ante on performance quite a bit, with a whopping 208hp, tweaked suspension, 17-inch performance rubber and massive Brembo brakes.

We had the chance to sample one in Germany, including a few laps of the legendary Nürburgring. Is the extra snazzy enough to offset the unusual looks, or the lack of traditional Mini function?

Other staff views

J.G. Pasterjak JG Pasterjak
Production/Art Director

On paper, this car makes no sense. Let’s take a Mini, chop off the part that makes it so functional, and throw it back to the wolves. Oh, and as a reward for taking away that super-roomy hatchback, we won’t make it any lighter, either.

If you said “no deal” to this arrangement, we couldn’t blame you. But we’d also think you hadn’t driven one—especially not one with the additional John Cooper Works package. Despite how the arrangement looks on paper, on the road, and on the track, something about it just flat works.

First, the disclaimers: No, the styling is not for everyone. Which is a nice way of saying it looks al little odd. The roofline is not particularly unattractive itself, but when plopped on top of the Mini body we’ve all come to know, the proportions are thrown off. That roofline on a shorter, channeled body would look downright tough. As it is, it’s a bit of a comb-over, trying to hide its pedestrian nature under a sporty roofline.

Also, while the hatch area is nowhere near as big as a regular Mini’s, it isn’t completely ruined. There’s still room for multiple large pieces of luggage, and the lack of rear seats means you get a nice storage spot behind the seats as well. So, yeah, the hatch area is smaller, but let’s not pretend they turned it into a MR Spyder or something.

But, really—and you have to trust me on this one—none of that matters from behind the wheel. The JCW suspension package, and the sticky 205/45-17 tires combine to make this among the best-handling, most responsive Minis we’ve ever driven. It feels like a modified car—and by all rights it is with the upgraded JCW bits—but one that has been done with such care and thought and deliberate sorting that you’ll never have to worry about rattles, clunks, or other such nonsense associated with aftermarket handling packages.

The whole package just, dare we say, “works.” The 208hp mean that the tires scrabble for traction through second and even in third gear when the chassis unloads, but such a condition doesn’t upset the balance of the chassis beyond a bit of feedback through the steering.

The whole package really just gives the impression of stability, and begs for a track where it can really use its talents. As luck would have it, we were able to take a few laps of the Nürburgring, and were pleasantly surprised that we were able to hang with much more exotic machinery through some of the twists and turns.

And given its full head of steam, we saw an indicated 250kph on an unrestricted section of Autobahn, which equates to about 155mph. Dead stable each step of the way, too.

You pay for such performance, and at just a bit north of $32,000, the JCW coupe is out of the price league of cars like the Mazdaspeed3 and GTI. Those competitors have four doors, and proper hatches as well, and don’t have the controversial looks of the Mini coupe.

What I’m saying is there’s no rational argument for the Mini coupe. But with the amazing JCW package, it really makes you think some wonderful, irrational thoughts.

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Comments

View comments on the GRM forums
pinchvalve
pinchvalve MegaDork
1/11/13 1:43 p.m.

Wow, you managed to capture a good angle for that thing. At least it wears its mass low and wide.

mistanfo
mistanfo UltraDork
1/15/13 6:26 p.m.

But does it drive any better than the normal JCW Cooper S, or whatever they call the four seater?

JG Pasterjak
JG Pasterjak Production/Art Director
12/10/13 12:00 a.m.

Several months back we reviewed the Mini Coupe and found it to be a capable playmate, but lacking in the typical utility that we’ve come to expect from Minis over the years.

Well, the John Cooper Works version ups the ante on performance quite a bit, with a whopping 208hp, tweaked suspension, 17-inch performance rubber and massive Brembo brakes.

We had the chance to sample one in Germany, including a few laps of the legendary Nürburgring. Is the extra snazzy enough to offset the unusual looks, or the lack of traditional Mini function?

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